Yesterday’s news that Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough ‘handed over the keys’ to four homes in a remote community in the Northern Territory is a victory for ideological stupidity and government deceit.
The Australian newspaper celebrates the revelations with a front-page story (and glowing editorial) about the small Aboriginal outstation of Wudapuli, 380 kms south west of Darwin near the troubled community of Wadeye.
There, four families ‘took possession’ of government built homes, marking the first purchase of homes on Aboriginal land. They did no such thing. What they got was a promise they would “be eligible to buy the property after two years if [their] rental record is unblemished and the children are sent regularly to school”. As Rove McManus might say, ‘what the?’ This is the first we’ve all heard of the “send your kids to school” sting in the 99-year lease tail. What’s this?
The “no school, no mortgage” policy? Hardly a threat in a region with no ecomony. And just what school will “the children” be sent? Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (OLSH) Wadeye, which last year had over 600 enrolments at the start of the year, but was given funding and teachers for less than 220 students at a school that can house around 300. It’s worth noting the same number of enrolments turned up in 2007, and so did the same amount of funding. The Oz focussed on the story of Barney Narjic, an old blackfella who is reportedly delighted at his “acquisition”. And what a story it is.
The government reportedly estimates the value of Mr Narjic’s new home “at about $270,000”. So Brough’s in the valuation business now? Isn’t this the same government (and minister) who only three months ago claimed it had been given estimates of up to $800,000 to build a single house in a remote location, as part of its argument to wipe out CHIP, the long-running Aboriginal public housing program. Have we been lied to?
A more interesting valuation might be from, oh I don’t know … a bank! Because the true value of Mr Narjic’s new home is nothing like a quarter of a million dollars.
Anyone who’s lived in a small Australian country town will know that a community with a population of, say 6,000, has housing prices of under $100,000. But those communities have infrastructure and an economy.
Wudapali has neither. The tiny community of Wudapuli is serviced by Wadeye, one of the poorest communities in the nation which for five months of the year (during the wet) has no road access.
The cost to build the house aside, the day Mr Narjic finishes paying off his 30-year loan, the house is virtually worth less. He won’t be able to sell it because there’s no housing market. He’s just paid half a million bucks for over 30 years for nothing.
All this presupposes, of course, that Mr Narjic will be able to service a $270,000, 30-year loan. The Australian , without a hint of irony, noted that “Mr Narjic earned more than $300 a week” through the black work for the dole program. Wow! That oughta go a long way. Now all Mr Narjic and his family have to learn to do is not eat for 30-years and everything will be sweet.
The madness of this scheme almost beggars belief. It evokes images of the Dodgy brothers from Australia Your Standing In It .
And the craziest part about it? The federal government signed a home ownership deal with a man who is 51-years-old. Mr Narjic, according to the average lifespan of a male in Wadeye, should have died four years ago.
Mal Brough and the federal government are laughing all the way to the bank on this one. They’ve escape their public housing obligation to Aboriginal citizens, they’ve done precisely nothing to fix a $2.3 billion shortfall in black public housing, and they getting lauded for it by the media. 2007 election, roll on.